Innovation is one of the most popular words being used in businesses today. As Alex Triantis, dean of the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business, remarked during his keynote at the school's recent annual summit, "Innovation is an essential building block for prosperity and survival."
While he pointed out the importance of innovation for a company's future, he also noted that turning new ideas into financial success is not easy. There are many impediments, such as corporate strategy, culture, organizational processes and misaligned incentives.
Indeed, John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School and well-known author on change, notes that at least 70 percent of new efforts fail.
So how can you improve the odds your innovation will be a success?
-- Have a clear role for senior leaders
For anything to be truly successful in a company, there must be top management support. Being able to get buy-in from the board and senior management is vital for the successful creation and delivery of innovative products and services. A recent Fortune magazine article on the "World's 50 Greatest Leaders" pointed to how Alan Mulally, as the chief executive of Ford Motor Co., saved the automaker by changing its "risk-averse, reality-denying, CYA-based culture."
Similarly, retired Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. noted that leaders have to be able to "see around corners" and see something significant about the future that others don't see. This is critical as environments are increasingly described as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
Joe Taylor, chief executive of Panasonic, describes innovation as being able to adapt to the markets needs and demands. The market has changed profoundly from the industrial revolution to now. "How quickly can you can adapt?" is how he defines innovation. Top leaders have to be champions of innovation by what they say and what they do.